Meditation is an ancient wellness practice that has been present in cultures all over the world for thousands of years.
For generations, meditative practices have played a role in Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, and Christianity in order to encourage a heightened state of awareness and focused attention. That said, many people practice it nowadays independently of any belief system.
Meditation involves nonjudgmental observation, typically using breathing as an anchor to ground oneself in the present moment.
Myriad studies conducted over decades have pointed to the benefits of meditation, with several highly successful people, such as Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, swearing by daily meditation and crediting it as an integral part of their success story.
While meditation can seem daunting, its greatest advantage is that it’s easy and suitable for absolutely anyone. Anyone at any stage of life can benefit from it.
Here are just seven science-backed benefits of meditation:
1) Improved mental and emotional wellbeing
Meditation is primarily extolled for its wholesome impact on mental and emotional well-being. Simply put, it’s one of the easiest ways to find balance and contentment.
Meditation helps to change how your brain reacts to stress and anxiety. It won’t rid you of your stress or block out negative thoughts on its own, but meditation helps to gain a greater awareness of your feelings so that you can be more mindful of them and accept them.
As a result, multiple studies have shown that meditation can help to dramatically reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety.
People who meditate regularly also note that it helps them to have more compassion, understanding, forgiveness, and overall happiness.
It has also been found to be useful in treating addictions as it helps with self-acceptance, self-confidence, personal growth, and an increased sense of purpose.
2) Longer and better sleep
Meditation is a great tool for people who have difficulty sleeping or are suffering from insomnia.
By relaxing both your body and brain, it becomes easier to manage the distracting thoughts that keep your mind active as you try to get some sleep.
Studies have found that meditation can reduce the levels of the “stress hormone” cortisol in the body, as well as increase the natural melatonin that promotes restful sleep.
3) Increased protection from illness
Meditation is mostly associated with its ability to help people deal with the common stresses and strains of daily life. However, not so many people are aware of the power of meditation for strengthening the immune system.
People who meditate regularly take fewer sick days and are better able to cope better with illness.
Harvard Medical School also found that those who often practiced yoga and meditation had far more genes that fight inflammation, kill diseased cells, and even protect the body from cancer.
4) Enhanced efficiency of the digestive system
Meditation has a positive impact on gut health too. When someone is tense or anxious, they often feel it first in their stomach.
Stress is a known and common cause of inflammation, acid reflux, ulcers, and sometimes allergies.
As meditation calms the mind and body, it enhances the digestive system’s efficiency. It also promotes the cultivation of ‘friendly’ microbes in the brain-gut axis, alleviates digestive issues by reducing inflammation, and improves metabolism and nutrient absorption.
5) Lower blood pressure
Meditation techniques are increasingly employed for preventing or reducing high blood pressure.
This is backed up by current scientific consensus and almost a thousand studies across three decades which all point to the way in which regular meditation makes the body less responsive to stress hormones in a similar way to pharmaceuticals.
In many people, meditation has enabled them to reduce and even cut out their blood pressure medication entirely.
6) Improved management of chronic pain
When chronic pain persists despite conventional treatment, meditation can help.
Meditation triggers brain pathways in different ways than conventional pain medication. One study showed that meditation can change the cortical thickness in some brain areas, making you less sensitive to pain.
Likewise, mindfulness meditation has shown promising results in people with conditions such as persistent headaches, lower back pain, chest pain, and gastrointestinal discomfort.
7) Increased fertility
When an individual is stressed, a lot of the blood flow is redirected toward the muscles.
As a result, in females, less blood reaches the uterus and ovaries and therefore the reproductive system doesn’t function optimally. This can affect ovulation patterns.
Similarly, for men, stress has been shown to lead to a decreased sperm count.
Mindfulness and meditation help to combat the effects of stress and anxiety, making getting pregnant much more likely.
Meditation: how do you do it? And how often?
Meditation is a fairly straightforward process. The key is relaxation and cutting out outside distractions. Broadly speaking, the process is as follows:
- Find a comfortable and quiet place to sit, away from distractions
- If you’re new to this, limit yourself to around five to 10 minutes
- Choose a position that is comfortable and that you can maintain for a period of time
- Focus on your breathing and note the sensation as the air goes in and out
- Try closing your eyes if it helps you to focus.
- If your mind wanders (which it probably will), return your focus to your breathing without being hard on yourself if it keeps happening.
- When you’re ready to finish, take a moment to slowly interact with your surroundings again and listen to the sounds around you. Think about how your body feels now, as well as your thoughts and emotions.
There are no hard and fast rules for how much meditation you should do. The key is making it a priority. But the busier you are, the more you should make time for these moments of stillness and peace.
However, research shows that just five minutes of meditation a day is enough to reap substantial benefits.
The role of meditation in therapy
As you can see, there are multiple benefits to meditation in everyday life.
When it comes to the promotion of overall health and well-being, more and more health professionals are acknowledging its benefits; so much so that it now plays an integral role in so many different types of therapies.
At White River Manor, we specialize in the treatment of addiction and other mental health disorders.
All of our treatment Programs are personalized according to the individual concerned and we use a range of treatment options with an understanding that no two stories are the same.
If you would like to know more about the techniques and complementary therapies we use, and how they might be useful to you, don’t hesitate to get in contact with us.
We’re ready and waiting to help you on your journey to recovery!